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Mike Rutherford is playing entry-level Squier Bullet Strats on Genesis tour

Mike Rutherford
(Image credit: Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)

The Squier Bullet Stratocaster is one of the best beginner electric guitars on the market but they are not just for beginners – even the legends love them. You can even headline arena shows with one, just as Mike Rutherford does.

In a recent interview with Guitar Player, Rutherford’s tech, Steve Prior, revealed that the entry-level Strat – the cheapest Stratocaster that Fender make – is presently the Genesis co-founder’s favourite, which he is playing each night in front of thousands of fans on The Last Domino? tour.

“His favorite one is an unusual color; it’s a limited-edition finish called Sonic Grey,” Prior told Guitar Player. “ He can’t put the Sonic Grey one down. It’s the first guitar he wants to play every day.”

Rutherford bought his Sonic Grey Bullet Strat and a second in Arctic White in Cape Town, after leaving behind his Fender Clapton Strat. And Prior says he has bought Rutherford another couple in the clearance aisle at the Newcastle branch of GuitarGuitar, describing the lightweight poplar-bodied Strat as “unbelievably good guitars for the money”.

Squier Bullet Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

Like many guitar players, Rutherford was acquainted with the charms of the Bullet Strat during lockdown, playing it through a Blackstar practice amp.

“Mike just fell in love with it playing along to his laptop and relearning all the Genesis songs,” said Prior. “That was him for almost all of the first lockdown because he wasn’t allowed out of Cape Town. He was stuck there. But he came back saying how much he loved this guitar.”

That Sonic Grey finish looks good under the lights. But if you are wondering how a budget Strat will hold up during an arena show, the answer is – surprisingly well. With a few judicious mods, the Bullet Strat can be turned from bedroom practice machine to a bona-fide road warrior. 

Indeed, the Bullet Strat makes an ideal guinea pig for our first modifications, perhaps fitting a new set of electric guitar pickups or upgrading the hardware as Prior has done, swapping out the original tuners, bridge and saddle for more durably Gotoh parts. Pickups? Well, Prior says that Rutherford likes them stock for the most part.

Squier Bullet Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

“Mike loves the sound of the pickups,” said Prior. “Although on a couple of these guitars I have put Fender Noiseless bridge pickups in, just in case we get any interaction with the stage’s enormous 70 feet LCD screen.”

With giant LCD screens less a problem for most of our gigs, Rutherford’s experience with the Bullet Strat goes to show that you can gig an entry-level guitar, with the lightweight Indonesian-made models more than fit for the stage. 

Anyone picking on of these up will be in no doubt they have a Stratocaster in their hands. You’ve got the 25.5” scale, the bolt-on maple neck in a welcoming C profile, a vintage-style synchronised tremolo, and a wealth of tones to cover courtesy of its trio of single-coil pickups and five-way pickup selector.

Besides swapping out the hardware, Prior upgraded the control circuit, using CTS pots and Switchcraft components, and after recutting the nut and giving the frets a little TLC the Bullet Strat was ready for an arena show. And as you can see from the picture at the top of the page, Rutherford proudly keeps the Squier decal on the headstock. Not bad for a guitar that retails for around £120 street.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.